Skip to Content

The Housemaid: Plot Summary and Ending Explained (+ FAQ)

the housemaid discussion guide

The Housemaid (2022) is a mystery book by Freida McFadden. It’s about Millie Calloway, a young woman with a troubled past, who becomes a housekeeper for Nina Winchester, a wealthy woman with mental health issues.

The Housemaid by Freida McFadden

McFadden is known for her bestselling psychological thrillers. In “The Housemaid,” she talks about control, abuse, and being a victim.

Summary | Ending Explained

The Housemaid Book Summary

In the beginning, an unnamed maid fears being arrested after a body is found in the house she works in. The story begins with Millie interviewing for a job as a live-in housekeeper for Nina Winchester. Despite her criminal past, she gets the job and moves in. She’s given a small room in the attic that only locks from the outside, which makes her uneasy. Millie asks for a key, which Nina gives her along with a new phone.

The landscaper, Enzo, warns her about danger but doesn’t explain further. Millie meets Nina’s husband, Andrew, and their daughter, Cecelia. She spends hours cleaning the messy house before making dinner.

Andrew appreciates her cooking and invites her to eat with them, but she declines because Nina seems annoyed. At night, when Millie tries to use the bathroom, the door gets stuck, making her panic.

Nina is unpredictable, sometimes being friendly and giving Millie old clothes, and other times accusing her of things she hasn’t done and making huge messes for her to clean. Cecelia is spoiled and difficult to tolerate, while Andrew is kind and appreciative.

Millie hears gossip about Nina’s mental health from other mothers and nannies and finds “antipsychotic” medication among Nina’s other drugs. She also learns that Nina spent time in a psychiatric hospital after attempting to harm Cecelia when she was a baby.

Nina and Andrew share with Millie their desire to have a child together, even though Cecelia isn’t Andrew’s biological daughter. They’re excited about it. Sadly, a doctor tells them Nina can’t have more children, which deeply upsets them.

The next evening, Millie overhears Nina arguing with Andrew about him possibly being happier with a younger woman. Andrew tries to cheer Nina up by suggesting they go to a Broadway show, but Nina gives Millie the wrong dates, ruining their plans.

After Nina leaves, Andrew gives the tickets to Millie, and they end up going together. They have a good time, but they drink too much and decide to stay overnight in a city hotel. There, they give in to their feelings and have sex, but agree it can’t happen again.

However, Millie soon realizes Nina knows about her and Andrew’s relationship. Nina makes Millie’s life miserable, even falsely accusing her of theft. Andrew defends Millie, admitting his feelings for her, and tells Nina to leave.

After Nina departs, Andrew and Millie spend the night together again, and Andrew expresses his desire for a serious relationship. The next morning, Andrew fires Enzo, saying he’s been around the house too much. While shopping, Millie learns from one of Nina’s friends that Nina put a tracking app on her phone. Shocked, Millie returns home and spends the day reading.

Later, she receives a scary call from a blocked number warning her to stay away from Andrew, which she assumes is Nina. As Millie prepares to move into the main house, Andrew returns. She doesn’t tell him about the troubling events of the day, and they end up sleeping together in her room. In the middle of the night, she discovers she’s locked in the bathroom with her phone missing and three heavy books mysteriously appearing.

In a flashback from Nina’s perspective, we learn about the events from her past. Nina had to leave college and start working after becoming pregnant from a drunken one-night stand. Andrew, who was the CEO of the company where she worked, charmed her and they began dating. Despite his charming facade, Nina soon discovered Andrew’s hidden sadistic tendencies. He would frequently lock her in the attic, subjecting her to emotional and physical torment.

After Nina’s failed escape attempt, she confides in Enzo, who shares the tragic tale of his sister’s demise due to spousal abuse. Enzo pledges to aid Nina’s escape, prompting her to seek a replacement. Nina discovers Millie and, with the aid of a private investigator, uncovers Millie’s past imprisonment for murder. Despite Millie’s attractive appearance, she has a history of violent retaliation against those who wronged her.

Nina clandestinely hires Millie to eliminate Andrew, keeping Enzo unaware of her plan. Millie’s youth and attractiveness make her appealing to Andrew, and her desperate need for employment ensures her compliance despite Nina’s mistreatment. Nina manipulates Millie into despising her, portraying herself as a victim to gain Andrew’s sympathy. She orchestrates situations for Andrew and Millie to be alone, leading to them sleeping together and Andrew evicting Nina from the house.

Andrew eventually returns to find Millie locked in the attic. He punishes her by making her balance heavy books on her stomach for three hours because she didn’t replace the ones she read.

When Millie falls short by a minute, he forces her to repeat the exercise. However, when he opens the door, Millie sprays him with pepper spray using a bottle left by Nina, steals Andrew’s phone, and locks him in the attic, subjecting him to similar torture.

Meanwhile, Enzo, who has been monitoring the house, becomes concerned when Millie doesn’t leave for days. He contacts Nina, urging them to return and help. Upon Nina’s return, they find the house deserted.

Assuming Millie is still locked upstairs, Nina unlocks the door to assist her, only to discover Andrew’s decomposing body. Millie then admits to locking Andrew in the attic for nearly six days. Fearing lifelong imprisonment, Millie breaks down in tears. Unable to let Millie take the blame for her actions, Nina asks her to leave.

During the detective’s questioning, Nina discovers that his daughter was once engaged to Andrew. However, she never revealed what happened and chose to change her name and relocate. The detective discloses that the police never looked into Nina’s claims of being locked in the attic due to the influence of the Winchesters on the department. He concludes Andrew’s death was accidental and closes the case.

At Andrew’s funeral, Evelyn Winchester, his mother, shares with Nina that she disciplined Andrew similarly to how he tortured Nina. She commends Nina for taking a stand and disciplining Andrew in this manner before walking away.

Nina and Cecelia relocate to California, while Millie lives off the money Nina sends her after Andrew’s demise. Nearly a year later, Millie interviews for a job recommended by Nina. She realizes the woman she’s meeting is being abused by her husband and assures her she can help.

The Housemaid Book Ending Explained

In Part 3, the book shifts between Nina and Millie’s perspectives, revealing the full story. Millie discovers Andrew’s true sadistic nature when he confesses to locking her in the attic as punishment. The books Andrew leaves for Millie’s punishment hold symbolic significance: one on prisons represents her past incarceration, another on torture foreshadows Andrew’s intentions, and the phonebook cruelly highlights Millie’s inability to seek help.

As Nina recalls Millie’s background, it becomes clear that Andrew underestimated her. He was unaware of her violent past and murder charges, which ultimately leads to his downfall. Millie turns the tables on Andrew, imprisoning and torturing him in the attic without any means of communication.

This reversal reflects the book’s theme of victimhood and abuse. Millie isn’t simply a victim; her history shows she never allowed herself to be abused and responded violently to threats. Unlike Andrew, who hid his violent nature, Millie’s violence was reactionary and often led to societal rejection and ostracization.

Despite their differing motivations for violence, both Andrew and Millie exhibit a capacity for planning and executing torture. Andrew meticulously arranges the attic room to discipline Nina and Millie, while Millie carefully plans her escape, ensuring she deactivates the lock on Andrew’s phone after pepper-spraying him. She then inflicts escalating levels of torture on Andrew in a composed manner.

Millie’s anger towards Andrew reflects her past experiences of violence and her satisfaction in retaliating against her friend’s attacker. She symbolically targets Andrew’s masculinity by making him balance books on his genitals, his source of social power, which ultimately leads to his downfall.

After Enzo persuades Nina to check on Millie, they discover Andrew’s body in the attic. Millie realizes Nina’s involvement in leaving her the pepper spray and understands Nina’s own torture by Andrew. Despite Nina’s urging to flee, Millie stays behind, fearing she may face legal consequences.

The story circles back to its beginning, but with some surprising revelations. Nina learns that the detective’s daughter was one of Andrew’s victims, allowing them to escape legal repercussions. However, Nina still worries about the Winchesters’ influence.

A final twist reveals that Evelyn, Andrew’s mother, inflicted the same torture on him during his childhood. She coldly appreciates Nina for supposedly disciplining Andrew in a similar manner before leaving abruptly. The epilogue hints at a sequel, where Millie begins work in another household facing a similar situation of spousal abuse.

Happy reading! ❤️